- PaulF Jan 16, 2007 05:09 PM
Sometimes I lack the houndish vernacular to properly praise a restaurant that I really like.
So, let me just say that I don't have the words to describe how much I've enjoyed Metro Cafe on my last two visits.
The place has been written about here before. For those who don't know, it's a little restaurant in a Travelodge on Washington Place just east of Sepulveda. You can just about see it if you are standing on line at Tito's -- it's on the same side of the street, but across Sepulveda.
Metro is sort of like a nicer diner, with sandwiches and good burgers and eggs for breakfast. By nicer, I mean, it's not a greasy spoon. Maybe the ingredients are a little fresher than the place where you have breakfast. And if that's all they had, they'd do fine, because they've got the hotel crowd supplementing the neighborhood crowd.
But there's more to Metro.
It's also a Serbian restaurant.
Yeah, I didn't know from Serbian food, either.
When you go for dinner, they hand you a different menu. You can still get the items on the lunch menu (maybe breakfast, too, I'm not sure) but they hand you a dinner menu.
And there's some very good items there.
My favorite appetizer are the zucchini pancakes. I could eat all three that come on the place. Very crispy on the outside, very soft on the inside. I like to use the "Ivar" (Not sure about the spelling) which is a semi-spicy red pepper dip or relish that comes with the hot bread. I use the ivar on the pancakes ... just delicious.
For dinner, my favorite is the ... is the ... to tell you the truth, I can't spell it. It's the Chimchimvadri or something like that. I don't have a menu in front of me to check. But you'll know it when you see it.
These are spiced ground beef ... well ... sausages. They are about the size of breakfast sausages and maybe you get a dozen or so. The owner told us the first time we tried them that traditionally, they are made with three types of meat: beef, lamb and pork. But in deference to Jewish people and Moslems and others who prefer not to eat pork or some other meats, they make them with all beef.
Just outstanding. I've mentioned before that I like sausages a lot, one of the few things I like to cook for company. Or grill, I guess. And I could eat a hundred of these. I lack the words to describe the flavor, just a perfect blend of spices. They are served sort of medium rare, too - medium rare to medium ... a few will be pink inside (slightly). Very juicy and tender.
The sausages lay on a bed of chopped raw onion, that sort of warm umder the meat and become saturated with the juice -- not exactlyu cooking the onions, but warming them and seasoning them. The dish also comes with potatoes, but I must admit I'm sort of careful about carbs and since I eat the bread, they always replace my potatoes with grilled vegetables, peppers and mushrooms or whatever they have around.
That dish alone brings me back to the Metro. But they also have a great chicken dish with a spinach sauce and I tried my sons salmon pasta and can advocate for that dish as well.
Not to mention the pork chop smothered in sauerkraut that had my mouth watering at the next table. Or the steak I saw across the room
Metro has beer and wine, but no liquor. They also have good coffee.
One other thing: The people that work there are very nice and very good at service. It's a small restaurant and you get the feeling that everyone is sort of related, I've never asked, maybe they are. It's very familial inside, there's a warmth that adds to the vibe.
The owner, don't know his name, has stopped by to say "hi" when the place isn't that busy. He really cares, he even said that if someone doesn't like something, he won't charge them or he'll serve them something else. "I stand by my food," is what he said.
Is Metro great? I dunno. What's great? If only the fanciest, high end spots are truly great, then no. It's not fancy.
But if very fresh, very flavorful takes on many familiar dishes is great and if serving an unfamiliar (at least to many) cuisine very well is great, then the place comes close to great.
I think it's a neighborhood spot, not a destination spot. I don't think I'd go if it was in Monrovia unless I was in Monrovia. But if you're in the neighborhood it's worth a tty.
The whole neighborhood has some good places. Too many Mexican places to name, plus El Rincoln Criollo for Cuban and S&W for hash and the nicer places popping up to the east in Culver City, plus Giovanni's for Italian ... and the Metro has a nice niche in the whole mix.
Since you're a fan of Metro Cafe, I would recommend that you also give their Bosnian counterparts at Aroma Cafe (on Overland) a try. I contracted an addiction to the red pepper "ajvar" when I first went there (Trader Joes sells the stuff for $1.69 a jar btw). Aroma serves their cevapi with chopped sweet onions with a side helping of kajmak, an addictive sour-cream/butter-like spread which tastes divine, melted over the hot sausages in a bun. Their burek, a kind of savory, spiral flaky pastry, is also fabulous.
Metro is a great place for dinner. I can vouch for the Chavichichi or whatever it's called. It's delicious. I also had the Osso Bucco, the roasted chicken and the mushroom appetizer, which were all excellent. The salmon with pesto was a little oily, but great flavors.
It's closed on Monday nights and open at 6PM for dinner on other nights.
We ate here for the first time tonight and I can easily say that this will fit nicely into our choices for solid casual lunch and dinner picks. The food was great, the service was very helpful and prompt, and the food was great... oh, yeah... It's a small place but the tables are spaced well enough to not feel crowded, and there is seating outside as well.
The menu is twofold. They have one menu with relatively basic breakfast and lunch choices, but there's this other menu on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper - it's almost like the triple-secret contraband menu that they slip you as you're about to pick up their standard one - that "other" menu kinda blew me away. It contains an eclectic list of solid somewhat traditional European menu items that one typically doesn't find at most restos, let alone a cafe. Burrata and roasted pepper salad, lamb osso bucco with pappardelle, goulash, and schnitzel all in one cafe menu? And Chevapchichi - my first dip into Serbian cuisine. As I really enjoyed this dish, I jokingly mumbled, "I knew I should have married a Serbian woman..." My wife gave me a huge stink-eye... Geez, it's just a joke, dear... I didn't realize she left her sense of humor at home...
What really works for us as a family is the two-menu dynamic. Their basic menu has more than enough choices to keep our kids happy. And we can work on the "contraband" menu that is much more suited for more "adult-like" tastes. At the same time, we get to nudge our kids into some of these dishes without bludgeoning their kiddy-palates, all in a very casual cafe setting. And when my son decides to stop burping openly at the table and spreading butter on his bread with his fingers, we can go to a really nice place that may offer the same dishes...
One would think that all of these Euro-dishes were roaming the streets of LA looking for a suitable caretaker, where Metro Cafe took them in, promised to love and respect them and gave them a new home... and they all lived happily ever after...